What’s the Meaning of This? : How to get Meaning out of a Paper

Writing a paper when you have something to say can be easy. However, what about those writers who have things to say but can’t get meaning out of their words? Generating meaning out of a paper can be one of the many difficulties that students, teachers, and writers alike all face. In the world of academia, it is believed that everything you write is supposed to have some sort of meaning behind it.

Yet, what is meaning, in terms of writing? Simply put, meaning is what we attempt to give to the signs and symbols that surround us.

So, what is meaning in terms of writing a paper? The entire reason of writing the paper is that you are looking at one specific sign/symbol and trying to give it purpose within a larger context. That sounds a bit heavy and convoluted but it breaks down easily enough. For instance:

  • When you are first choosing a topic make sure that you are specific about what you want to say about it.
  • Come up with some questions, other than those with yes and no answers, that will help you dig deeper into what it is about your topic that you want to explore.
  • Try to figure out how your topic corresponds to a larger context.

If you can follow those three steps then you are well on your way to generating meaning within your paper. The next thing you have to figure out is how you are going to show your audience what you are trying to convey with your meaning. The quickest answer for that is through examples. Most academic papers are written based off of something that you have read, studied and therefore you have been provided with a text that you can pull examples from. Before you get started pulling your examples there are a few things that you should be aware of:

  • Always keep in mind the three-“I”ed Monster.
    • Idea – Think of this as your thesis statement.
    • Illustration – Your illustrations are made up of your textual and research based evidence that helps support the argument you are trying to make.
    • Interpretation – This is where you let your intellect shine. Once you have illustrated the point you are trying to make with your textual evidence, you then get to turn on that evidence and explain why it matters not only to you and for your argument but also on a grander scale.

Interpretation is the key ingredient to getting to the meaning of your paper. The better your interpretation, the more meaning you can get out of topic. Essentially, using illustrations and interpretation is the same concepts of, for every claim that you make you have to support it, only in reverse. So, for every illustration you give, you have to interpret it. Illustrations are nothing without their interpretations.

So, to get to the meaning of your topic, just remember the three-“I”ed monster and you may find the writing process easier than you first imagined.



— Heather


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